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Journalist: Premier League Managers Demand Rule Change

Premier League Managers Call for Handball Law Revision

Unanimous Discontent Over Handball Rule

All Premier League managers, including Sean Dyche, agree that the current handball rule needs revisiting, reports Paul Joyce in the Times. This collective stance reflects a growing frustration with the inconsistencies in the rule’s application, particularly highlighted in recent matches involving Liverpool, Arsenal, and Everton.

Inconsistencies in Decision Making

The controversial decisions in the Liverpool vs. Arsenal match and Everton’s clash with Manchester City have brought the handball rule under intense scrutiny. Dyche’s Everton was penalized for a handball by Amadou Onana, whereas Arsenal’s Martin Odegaard was not penalized in a similar incident. This disparity in decisions, often influenced by the video assistant referee (VAR) David Coote’s interpretation, has led to widespread confusion and frustration.

Managers’ Meeting with Referees’ Chief

During a recent Zoom meeting attended by all top-flight managers, referees’ chief Howard Webb, and associations like the Professional Footballers’ Association and the League Managers Association, the depth of discontent was vocalized. Dyche stated, “Every manager said this has got to change.” The Everton manager elaborated on the perplexity surrounding these decisions, indicating a lack of clarity and consistency.

The Challenge for Ifab

The International Football Association Board (Ifab), the body responsible for writing the laws of the game, faces the challenge of rewriting a law that, according to former Premier League referee Peter Walton, is “maddeningly unclear.” Walton suggests that Ifab’s attempt to simplify the handball rule has led to its current ambiguous state.

Key Issues with the Current Law

The law’s complexity lies in defining what constitutes making the body “unnaturally bigger” and the absence of clear guidelines for referees. Walton points out that factors like proximity and whether the ball diverts onto a player’s hand are not explicitly covered in the law. Howard Webb’s interpretation for the Premier League, stating penalties should not be awarded if the ball hits another body part before striking the arm, is a step towards clarity, but the law itself remains vague.

The Case for Clarity and Consistency

The current ambiguity in the handball law leads to varied interpretations by referees, impacting the consistency of decisions. Walton advocates for clearer guidelines from Ifab and suggests that Webb should publicly clarify how handball will be judged in the Premier League. This approach could enhance decision-making consistency across the league.

Long-Term Solutions and Immediate Actions

While a long-term redrafting of the law by Ifab is necessary, immediate actions are required to address the ongoing confusion. This includes clear communication from league officials on how handball incidents will be evaluated for the remainder of the season.


The unified call from Premier League managers for a change in the handball law underscores the need for clarity and consistency in football’s rules. The challenge for Ifab and league officials is to provide clear guidelines that can be uniformly applied, ensuring fairness and understanding among players, managers, and fans alike.

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